The last of Hurricane Issac’s rain is set to arrive in Hot Springs in a few hours. From our window I can see the Trees begin to perform their spiral swirl dance as the wind begins to pick up. Knowing the storm was set to arrive on Thursday I headed into the parched Forests of Hot Springs National Park yesterday. I was on the mountain by 8:15 and the cool 74 degrees felt like a luxury compared to the usual 89 the past two months. Not having my lenses fog up from the humidity was an added plus too.
It was perfect morning for a late summer hike, even with monumental construction taking place at the entrance to the park. The higher I climbed up Hot Springs Mountain the noise from below began to fade. I ran into an old friend as I was photographing a beautiful array of blue Asiatic Dayflowers. The colorful feral cat now has a collar and tags, one of which says “I am not lost”. I am tempted to call the number on another tag as this beautiful baby should not be hunting in the park. There are several creatures in the Forest that could easily hurt this lovely cat.
When I hiked up the Dead Chief and Short Cut Trails the only Wildflowers I saw were wilting Goldenrod spears. Their bright yellow blossoms glowed softly on the trail edges. As I reached the Hot Springs Mountain Trail a lovely Hackberry Emperor Butterfly landed on a stump. It slowly pumped its wing warming in the first rays of the early sun. Further along the trail I spotted Dragonflies, they darted rapidly illuminated by light from the flickering leaves. I was surprised to see they were not monochrome. Their bodies were green with purplish blue tails and golden wings.
At the junction of the Honeysuckle and Floral Trails I made a wonderful discovery. A single pinkish purple Oxalis is being bent by a subtle breeze. A tiny exquisite gift in the parched Forest.
The now falling rain is a gift to the Forest in need of healing.
Much Love to ALL!
Garvan Woodland Gardens is an oasis from the heat that has plagued Arkansas this summer. It is located on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs approximately 5 miles from the city’s Historic District. Unlike many botanical gardens visitors are not trapped in a series of glass houses. Instead, each unique garden is nestled among the tall pines in a forest setting. From the Asian-inspired Garden of the Pine Wind to the Hixson Family Nature Preserve you will find the artistry of Nature carefully shaped or allowed to run wild. Elegant bridges wind through the Forest Canopy bringing each person closer to beautiful winged inhabitants. Completing the hiking experience is the soft music of streams and waterfalls.
The Hixson Family Woodland Nature Preserve is located on a spit of land surrounded on three sides by the placid blue Lake Hamilton. The Lowland Boardwalk leads you to the Song Bird Trail which loops approximate 2 miles through a small pine forest along the lake edge. Home to heron, hawks, owls and song birds it a wonderful place for bird watchers. The many benches scattered along the trail offer hikers the opportunity to relax during their journey around the preserve.
Located next to the Nature preserve is the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy this wonderfully-crafted space designed to entice children to the joy of Nature. A 20 foot tall canopy bridge draws you into the circular design giving a spectacular view between the trees of the fun that waits below. The trail goes under a rock arch leading to a waterfall, manmade cave, pond and stone maze.
Central to the Garden of the Pine Wind are the multiple water and rock features. The elegant Sunrise and Full Moon bridges offer a glimpse of the serene half acre Koi (colorful carp) Pond. Asian ornamental plants, colorful maples and Dogwoods decorate the landscape. Streams and waterfalls cascade over rock borders spilling into pools. The garden can be viewed from the walkway or on the stone steps and paths that border the brooks, pools and pond.
A mix of Pine Forest and ornamental border plants line the edges of the Camellia Trail. Moving along the path we are drawn toward a myriad of wonderful features. From the 20 foot high Millsap Canopy Bridge there is a spectacular view of the Singing Spring Gorge. Overlooks afford views of both Trap and Riante Mountains. Other trail features include the Old Brick Hill and Fern Glade.
This is a lovely destination for people of all fitness levels and many areas of the park are wheelchair-accessible. A breeze off Lake Hamilton often keeps the temperatures cooler than other areas in Hot Springs making this “paradise hideaway” the perfect place to escape the heat for your next hike. Each season will reveal a variety of newly emerging colorful plants, songbirds and butterflies. Plan to spend half a day to see the entire garden as it is easy to lose track of time when you are surrounded by the beauty of Nature in Garvan Woodland Gardens.
Much Love to ALL!